Fanning Orthodontics - Dental Blog

What is Early Orthodontic Treatment?

Orthodontic treatment in childhood makes fixing complex alignment issues easy!

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends first seeing an orthodontist at age 7. You may be thinking that most people receive orthodontic treatment as a teenager, so why should kids see an orthodontist this young? Typically, children have enough permanent teeth to identify orthodontic issues that may become more complex as the child ages.

Most children will not require orthodontic intervention at age 7. However, early orthodontic intervention can help prepare some children for a smoother orthodontic treatment or even eliminate the need for treatment in their teenage years.  

Dental Problems That May Require Early Orthodontic Intervention:

  • Underbites & crossbites
  • Functional shifts (jaw shifts to one side when the teeth come together)
  • Severe teeth crowding
  • Drastic spacing of the teeth
  • Extra or missing teeth
  • Abnormal teeth or jaw growth from thumb sucking

Early orthodontic intervention is delivered while some of the baby teeth are still present. The goal of these treatments is to guide the growth and development of the jaw and facial bones to promote the permeant teeth to grow in straight.

Children who consistently mouth breathe or have difficulty speaking, chewing, or swallowing may require orthodontic treatments in childhood. Oftentimes treatment can correct the alignment issues causing these problems to allow proper oral function.

Signs Early Orthodontic Intervention May Be Needed:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Very early or late loss of baby teeth
  • Mouth breathing
  • Persistent thumb sucking
  • Teeth grinding
  • Snoring
  • Speaking difficulties

During an orthodontic consultation, the orthodontist performs a visual examination of the patient's mouth. They may also take a series of x-rays to take a deeper look at problems that typically go unnoticed with visual exams alone. Extra teeth, missing teeth, tooth impactions, and teeth growing in the wrong position can be detected by an x-ray.

There are multiple types of early orthodontic treatments designed to address various alignment problems. Removable orthodontic appliances, such as retainers, may be recommended to move the teeth, alter the jaw position, or keep the teeth in place. Partial braces and palate expanders are fixed orthodontic appliances that also may be suggested. These appliances are worn constantly and cannot be self-removed. Baby tooth extractions are also common in early orthodontic treatments to create more room for permeant teeth to grow in correctly.

It is never too late to start your orthodontic journey! If your child is older than 7-years-old or if you are an adult seeking treatment, an orthodontic consultation will still benefit you. Braces and clear aligners can correct almost any misalignments regardless of age. A consultation will allow us to determine the best course of treatment to help achieve a beautiful, straight smile.

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